Spontaneous Days Are The Best

I woke up yesterday with no plan in mind. I just let the day unfold in front of me. Don’t get me wrong, I like to plan things, but usually they’re long term plans, not set in stone plans. I also like routine. I like setting the alarm to start the day. However, I don’t like making a plan for the weekend. How do I know how I’m going to feel once the weekend arrives?

So I got up. I made coffee. I lounged around the cabin all morning. Around lunchtime, I went to see if anyone was in the dining room. I found Frida, Mette, and some others chatting so I stayed for a bit. Then Frida asked if I wanted to join them for a walk into town. I said yes. I ran down to the cabin to grab my backpack and water and we were off!

A bunch of us walked out to the MTN store to straighten out SIM card issues. We sat there for about 30 minutes waiting in the que. *that’s a line for my American friends* After the SIM card issues were sorted out, we decided to get in the bus, or the van the Congolese call the bus, and go to the Grande Marche, aka African Market.

Now you know the bus ride was interesting, right? We were 19 people in a van. Only 3 of us were white. Only one of us could speak French conversationally. The ride to the market took about 15 minutes. I stared out the front window as I listened to the boisterous conversation around me. Occasionally I would understand a phrase. At one point, a man in the front seat noticed the ring on my left hand. *it’s the silver ring that has Hebrew written on it* He asked me if I was married. I said yes I am. *not untrue as The Lord is my husband* Then he asked me my age. I said I’m 50. *true story* He said oh! Ha!

Pointe Noire’s African market is quite large and quite orderly. It seems to go for many blocks. We were not disappointed to find just about anything one could possibly want or need, from the smallest gadget to western style fashions. They had it all.

We wandered up and down streets and alleys. The salesmen were very polite, only approaching us if we seemed interested in their wares. I was just happy to wander and take in the sights, sounds, and smells. The street foods smelled delicious and there was even fresh popcorn!

As we made our way up and down, I began to notice men being very excited to see my tattoos. I heard one man exclaim to another hey look, she has a tattoo of Africa! A little further along, a man casually took my wrist in his hand. I hadn’t even noticed him. He began saying something about my tattoo in French. He wouldn’t let go of my arm as I kept walking to stay with my friends. I could see them moving forward, unaware I wasn’t with them anymore. Oh no, I’m going to lose them, I thought. So I yelled Frida! Startled, the man dropped my arm and Frida turned around. I didn’t feel threatened. I just didn’t want to be left behind. I quickly caught up to my friends and we carried on. There was one other instance of arm grabbing after that. I just told my friends to wait.

I never experienced this bold behavior in Guinea, probably because the population is 90% Muslim and it’s culturally taboo for men to touch women. Just something I need to be aware of. I find it unnerving as I’m not a touchy feely person.

As we made our way back to the port, another man asked me about my tattoos. Thankfully, he didn’t feel the need to touch them. 🙂

When we reached the western supermarket, the street vendors tried to sell us a variety of items, like SIM cards, sunglasses, cellphone cases, manicure kits, and so on. One vendor kept telling me I was pretty. So weird!

We stopped off for ice cream next. It was nice to sit down and rest in the cool shop for a bit. Then we made our way back to the port. In a moment of serendipity, Mette saw a Mercy Ships vehicle. We caught a ride from there and were rescued from the last 20 minutes of walking. My feet and back were very glad. It was a super fun day. 😀

His… Michelle
Philippians 1:20

Tell me, how was your Saturday?

20130825-112249.jpg

20130825-112257.jpg

20130825-112307.jpg

20130825-112317.jpg

20130825-112323.jpg

We’re Not In Guinea Anymore!

Well I’ve been in the Congo for almost 72 hours. And boy is it different from Guinea! The people are extremely friendly and welcoming. They’re also very helpful. I am quite amazed at the number of folks who speak English. That is a real treat considering I speak about two phrases in French. *I really need to practice french*

20130817-193216.jpg

20130817-193256.jpg

20130817-193305.jpg

20130817-193317.jpg

20130817-193323.jpg

20130817-193353.jpg

20130817-193401.jpg

Last night, I went out for dinner with a large group of people. We went to Palm Beach Hotel. The hotel is located across from the beach. I was really excited to have the shrimp avocado cocktail I grew to love while I was in Guinea. I also had a pizza and a coke light. *that’s diet coke for my American friends* The price of the meal? $20 American, about twice as much as Guinea. After dinner, we went a bit down the road and had ice cream for dessert, $2 a scoop.

20130817-193502.jpg

And now let me try to explain the money. The Congo uses the Central African Franc. Interestingly, one is not legally allowed to remove the CFA from the country. If one is found with any CFAs on their person, it will be confiscated. Ha! So, 1000 CFA = $2. 5000 CFA = $10. To do the math for converting CFAs to dollars you take the amount in CFAs, say 2529, multiply that by 2 which equals 5058, then put the decimal point 3 places to the left between the 5 and the 0 and the item costs roughly $5.058 or $5.06. Got it? Seems complicated, especially when one is jet lagged, but I understand it completely now. Ha!

20130817-194310.jpg

20130817-194322.jpg

20130817-194331.jpg

20130817-194338.jpg

20130817-194344.jpg

Today, I walked into town with my friend Leanne. We wanted to visit the supermarket. First we got the shuttle to the train station. Then we walked the rest of the way. We found a nice internet cafè with fairly reasonable prices.

Next up, we visited a sporting good store. All the items in the store were western brand name items. The prices were higher than western prices, probably due to import fees.

Then we walked to the supermarket. All I can say is wow! It is nearly as good as a western market. Some items are reasonably priced. Other items are expensive. Children’s toys are super expensive! I was really surprised to find Ben and Jerry’s ice cream! It only costs about $12 American! Ha!

It was great fun to get out and explore a little bit of the neighborhood. I think it’s going to be a fun year!

His… Michelle
Philippians 1:20